The Golden Middle Path - a blog by Amit K Mathur

AI is back again

AI is making a comeback in the news. There is a nice write up in Wired, an interview by Elon Musk, Dawn or Doom conference and Nick Bostrom’s new book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.

IBM is creating a software called Dr. Watson which is an automatic medical diagnostic software. You feed your symptoms into it and it comes up with a list of possible diagnosis. It will probably not replace a doctor but may be make his job easier or even allow a para-medic to act like a doctor in most cases.

Although some are asking for oversight and regulation of the field of AI, the kind of technology being talked about currently, called ‘Weak AI’, is more like infusing smartness than any attempt to mimic human intelligence (which is called ‘strong AI’ or AGI).

AI is attracting big investments too ($17 billion since 2009) and acquisitions by several big cos too (see here). Apart from medicine, education, legal and piloting are some of the fields which will get radically changed as software improves. More and more of tasks so far done by humans are getting automated.

Most of these is driven by advances in parallel computing, big data and better algorithms.

It is important to remember that, software (or AI) is not going to replace humans but enhance them. Just like in chess, best players will use a combination of humans’ ingenuity and software to automate tasks too tedious for humans. Most of the new software will work like GPS in your car – it will there to help you but you can override it when you want. Many of the new software will make everyday objects like electricity meters, home plumbing systems, traffic signals and fridges do little things on their own to make our life little easier and better.

As the wired article reports, in South by southwest conference, IBM’s Watson software was fed recipes database, nutritional facts and taste indicators and came up with fusion receipes which were then cooked by humans chefs. Many of them turned out to be novel and were well liked. Its a good example of how AI can augment humans to do things better.

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